THE FAMILY PLAN
December 15, 2023 / AppleTV+
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Monaghan, Maggie Q, Zoe Colletti, Van Crosby, Saïd Taghmaoui, Ciarán Hinds
Directed By: Simon Cellan Jones
Dan Morgan (Mark Wahlberg) loves his quiet suburban life as a devoted husband, father of three and successful car salesman. But that’s only half the story. Decades earlier, he was an elite government assassin tasked with eliminating the world’s deadliest threats. When enemies from his past track him down, Dan packs his unsuspecting wife (Michelle Monaghan), angsty teen daughter, pro-gamer teen son and adorable 10-month-old baby into their minivan and takes off on an impromptu cross-country road trip to Las Vegas. Determined to protect his family — while treating them to the vacation of a lifetime — Dan must put his long-dormant skills into action, without revealing his true identity.
Written By Darren
Rating 3 out of 5
The Family Plan is a mashup of other family comedies, road trip movies and action comedies that feels very familiar, but its heart is in the right place and Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Monaghan make for a wonderful pairing, making AppleTV+’s latest original film worth checking out.
If there is one actor who has had a very versatile career, appearing in almost every genre imaginable, it has been Mark Wahlberg. A dependable star if there has ever been one, you know exactly what you are getting from him, whether it be stellar dramatic performances in films like The Departed or The Fighter, action packed extravaganzas with memorable roles in The Italian Job and Shooter, or great comedic turns in films like Instant Family and Ted. His latest film, while certain to not be a hit amongst older critics looking only at the individual parts of the film and not the overall experience of the film, features that signature charm and heart of Wahlberg’s more family focused films. Combining the charm and heart with a simple story, lots of laughter and a good cast, including the always delightful Michelle Monaghan, makes The Family Plan an easy pick for families to watch this holiday season from the comfort of home.
Dan Morgan enjoys the simple life in suburbia: a steady job, a loving wife and three wonderful children. But in fact, Dan is a former top assassin who left the profession long ago to start his family, still hiding out from his former employer with his past unknown to his family. But when his former employer discovers where Dan has been hiding all these years and sends trained killers after him, Dan whisks his family away on a spontaneous road trip to Las Vegas to keep his family out of harm's way. As his past catches up with him on the road to Las Vegas, Dan must do everything within his power not only to keep his family safe, but keep his dark past a secret from his wife and children.
Over the years, we have seen many films that have played with the same themes, plot lines and jokes that are present in The Family Plan. The plot is generic, combining the best elements of the road trip comedy, family comedy, and action comedy genres, and while it never reaches the heights of the films it is emulating, it does the trick to pass the time. We have a scene where Monaghan does a keg stand in front of her children, a carpool karaoke moment to Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” which calls back to the “Waterfalls” scene from We’re The Millers, a sneaky car chase while Dan’s wife and children sleep with only the family’s baby realizing what is happening, and a big action packed final act when the espionage elements finally collide with the family comedy. It’s fun and that carries the film, even if the dialogue at times is a little ridiculous, the villain reveal is very underwhelming and does not support the setup given to it over the film, and the runtime would have benefited from being ten minutes shorter. Writer David Coggeshall infuses his joke with a modern cheek that updates the gags the film is making from the last time you saw them, but where his film truly connects with the audience is the family moments throughout it. While focusing on the Morgan family and their moments they share with each other, the film finds its heart that will win viewers over. Watching Wahlberg’s Dan connect with his children on their tech free road trip, sharing a tender moment with his wife, or sacrificing everything he has built to keep his family safe, it’s in these moments where the basic storyline and easy jokes are elevated by the story’s heart to create an entertaining film. As with Wahlberg’s severely underrated film Instant Family, it is a more sentimental side to Wahlberg that always proves to be a winning formula for him. It’s not going to win over critics by any standards, but families and the average viewer will have fun watching this film over the holiday season.
When you sit down to watch a film like The Family Plan, you do not expect outstanding performances at the Oscar calibre. There are some better performances than others in this film, largely due to the script not providing actors with great material (most notably Maggie Q and Ciarán Hinds), but it is evident that Wahlberg, Monaghan and the child actors are having a ton of fun making this film. Wahlberg brings his standard charm to the film, finding an enjoyable balance between caring father and husband, action star, and lead in a comedy film; delivering everything that this film needs and more. His chemistry with Monaghan is great, while Monaghan is having a blast playing this mother who is able to embrace her wilder youth a bit more, helping her to deliver the funniest moments of the film. As the eldest Morgan children, Zoe Margaret Colletti and Van Crosby are both fun, capturing a great bond with both Wahlberg and Monaghan and becoming these spirited teenagers. The family bond is truly endearing, whether it be moments of bonding or the kids driving their parents crazy, but the fun and joy that you can see Wahlberg, Monaghan, Colletti and Crosby having on screen rubs off on the audience to create an enjoyable film.
Sometimes you need a film that is just harmless, easy to watch, pure fun to distract yourself for two hours, and that is what The Family Plan is. Even with a familiar storyline and comedic gags that you have seen time and time again, Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Monaghan are just delightful and elevate the heart of The Family Plan to create an entertaining family comedy that will leave a smile on your face.